Baby Cakes star Eddy Alvarez is a former Olympian and SLCC alumnus. He looks like a future Miami Marlin.

(Photo courtesy of Parker Waters) New Orleans Baby Cakes infielder Eddy Alvarez, a former Olympic speedskater and Salt Lake Community College baseball player, is having his best pro season at age 29.

Eddy Alvarez made a homecoming appearance this month, visiting Smith’s Ballpark as a Salt Lake Community College alumnus and Olympic silver medalist for Kearns-based US Speedskating.

That was nothing like his anticipated hometown debut in Major League Baseball. Imagine the current New Orleans Baby Cakes infielder playing for the Miami Marlins as a Cuban American in the city where he grew up, and the story becomes mildly overwhelming.

Playing in Miami naturally was Alvarez’s first thought when the Chicago White Sox traded him to the Marlins organization in March. Yet he tries to keep from dwelling on that possibility.

“That would be unbelievable,” Alvarez said last week in the visitors' dugout at Smith's Ballpark. But “there's something I've learned in this game: If you expect a lot, you're going to be disappointed a lot. Something I've done extremely well this year is take it day by day, no matter how good or how bad the day before was.”

These days are mostly good. Alvarez, 29, hardly could have believed the 2019 season would have turned out this well, after what happened in his first game in the Marlins’ system. Playing for Double-A Jacksonville, he fouled off a pitch and the force of his swing broke a bone in his wrist. After having surgery, he spent six weeks recovering at the club’s spring training facility, did a brief rehabilitation stint with Class-A Jupiter and then has thrived with Triple-A New Orleans.

Playing three infield positions, the ex-SLCC Bruins shortstop is batting .335 in 47 games, showing signs of deserving a September call-up to Miami. He went 9 for 19 in a four-game series vs. the Salt Lake Bees.

“I’m just not thinking too far ahead,” Alvarez said. “It’s something I’m taking extreme pride in, living in the moment.”

He’s willing to look back, though. Alvarez treasures his 2011 season at SLCC, reviving his baseball career after the disappointment of not making the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. He contacted SLCC coach David Nelson about trying out. The staff figured “an Olympic athlete was worth a look,” assistant coach Derek Waddoups said.

Alvarez “looked like a skater” when he initially ran the 60-yard dash, but his running form soon returned to a baserunner's style and the coaches liked his confidence and soft hands as an infielder.

As a 21-year-old freshman, Alvarez became a team leader whose Spanish-speaking influence was reflected in the team's “Familia” chant before games. He batted .303 for a team that earned the program's first No. 1 ranking and came within one game of reaching the NJCAA World Series.

“His ability to remain steady through failure brought a calmness and strength to our team,” Waddoups said. “I believe his mental training and being on the big stage with speedskating was a dynamic that helped our team. … 'La Familia' is the best way to describe what Eddy brought to Bruin baseball, as a great teammate.”

Alvarez’s favorite moment that season was hitting a home run that landed with a resounding noise on a tank beyond the fence in Twin Falls, Idaho. Nelson smiled and told the 5-foot-9, switch-hitting shortstop, “Little guy got pop.”

When he met with the coach after the season, Alvarez said he would love to keep playing baseball, but he still loved speedskating. When he watched the Bees play, Alvarez was torn about his future.

“I always felt like I belonged in that world, too,” he said. “Just had to take care of something first.”

That was making the U.S. Olympic team, as he did in 2014, earning a silver medal in short track speedskating in the 500-meter relay in Sochi, Russia. He started his pro baseball career almost immediately and climbed through the White Sox system, batting .247 for Triple-A Charlotte in 2018.

Alvarez has hit much better for former Bees manager Keith Johnson's Baby Cakes, while playing solid defense around the infield.

The improvement is remarkable, as Alvarez adjusted to the Pacific Coast League in midseason. “I've always been a competitor,” he said, “no matter the situation I'm in.”

Anyone who saw Alvarez skate or play shortstop in the Salt Lake Valley knows that, and so do those who watched him grow up in Miami. A lot more people in his hometown might see even more of him, and soon.